Trail Drivers of Texas
University of Texas Press
Last Publication: 1923
AN INDIAN BATTLE NEAR THE LEONA RIVER
By L. A. Franks of Pleasanton, Texas
In 1865 occurred one of those sad frontier tragedies where the settlers were unable to sustain themselves in an Indian battle, and wives and mothers were made to mourn for loved ones who never returned except as mangled or inanimate bodies. This noted fight occurred on the 4th day of July in the above named year near the mouth of the Leona River in Frio County. The settlers in the vicinity at that time were the Martins, Odens, Franks, Bennetts, Hays, Parks, Levi English and Ed Burleson. These were all in what was known as the Martin Settlement.
On the morning in question Ed Burleson went out a short distance from his ranch to drive up some horses. He was unarmed and riding a slow horse. Suddenly and unexpectedly to him he was attacked by two Indians, who ran him very close, one on foot and the other mounted. The one on foot outran the horseman and came near catching Burleson, but he ran through a thicket and, coming out on the side next his ranch, arrived there safely. Quite a lot of people had collected at his house, men, women and children, to celebrate the Fourth and wind up with a dance. Ere the sun went down on that day, however, the festivities were changed into mourning. Instead of the gay tramp and joyous laughter of the dancers, wailing and the slow tread of a funeral procession was heard. Excitement ran high when Burleson dashed in and gave the alarm. Most of the men mounted in haste to go in pursuit and others were notified. When all the men had congregated who could be gotten together on short notice, they numbered eleven and were as follows : Levi English, L. A. Franks, G. W. Daugherty, Ed Burleson, W. C. Bell, Frank Williams, Dean Oden, Bud English, Dan Williams, John Berry and Mr. Aikens. Levi English, being the oldest man in the party and experienced to some extent in fighting Indians, was chosen captain. When the main trail was struck the Indians were found to be in large force, and going down the Leona River. They crossed this stream near Bennett's ranch, four miles from Burleson's. They then went out into the open prairie in front of Martin's ranch, ten miles further on. The settlers first came in sight of them two miles off, but they went down into a valley and were lost to sight for some time. Suddenly, however, they came into view again not more than two hundred yards away. They were thirty-six Indians, mounted two and two on a horse. The Indians now discovered the white men for the first time and at once commenced a retreat. The white men were all brave frontiersmen and made a reckless and impetuous charge and began firing too soon. The Indians ran nearly a mile and, thinking likely they had well-nigh drawn the fire of the settlers, checked their flight at a lone tree at a signal from their chief, and each Indian who was mounted behind another jumped to the ground and came back at a charge, and for the first time commenced shooting. The mounted ones circled to right and left and sent a shower of arrows and bullets. Some of the Indians went entirely around the white men and a desperate battle at close quarters ensued. The redmen had the advantage of the whites in point of numbers and shots. The latter, having nearly exhausted their shots at long range, had no time to reload a cap and ball pistol or gun in such a fight as was now being inaugurated. Captain English in vain gave orders during the mad charge, trying to hold the boys back and keep them out of the deadly circle in which they finally went. Dan Williams was the first man killed and when he fell from his horse was at once surrounded by the Indians. English now rallied the men together and charged to the body of Williams, and after a hot fight drove them back, but in so doing fired their last loads. The Indians were quick to see this, and came back at them again, and a retreat was ordered. Frank Williams, brother to Dan, now dismounted by the side of his dying brother and asked if there was anything he could do for him, and expressed a willingness to stay with him. "No," said the stricken man, handing Frank his pistol, "take this and do the best you can —I am killed— cannot live ten minute's. Save yourself." The men were even now wheeling their horses and leaving the ground, and Frank only mounted and left when the Indians were close upon him. The Comanches came after them yelling furiously, and a panic ensued.
Dean Oden was the next man to fall a victim. His horse was wounded and began to pitch and the Indians were soon upon him. He dismounted and was wounded in the leg, and attempted to remount again, but was wounded six times more in the breast and back, as the Indians were on all sides of him. Aus Franks was near him trying to force his way out, and the last he saw of Oden he was down on to his knees and his horse gone. The next and last man killed was Bud English, son of the late captain. His father stayed by his body until all hope was gone and all the men scattering away. The Indians pursued with a fierce vengeance, mixing in with the whites, and many personal combats took place, the settlers striking at the Indians with their unloaded guns and pistols. In this fight all the balance of the men were wounded except Franks, Berry and Frank Williams. Captain English was badly wounded in the side with an arrow; G. W. Daughtery was hit in the leg with an arrow; Ed Burleson also in the leg; Aikens in the breast, and W. C. Bell in the side. In this wounded and scattered condition the men went back to the ranch and told the news of their sad defeat. Other men were collected and returned to the battleground to bring away the dead, led by those who participated but escaped unhurt. The three bodies lay within a hundred yards of each other and were badly mutilated. The Indians carried away their dead; how many was not known, but supposed to be but few, on account of the reckless firing of the men at the beginning of the fight. Bud English was killed by a bullet in the breast, and there was also one arrow or lance wound in the breast. The head of Dan Williams was nearly severed from the body, necessitating a close wrapping in a blanket to keep the members together while being carried back. Oden and Williams were brothers-in-law, and were both buried in the same box. Eight out of eleven were killed or wounded.
Pleasanton City Cemetery
Maintained by: Joan
Originally Created by: Eugene Cornelius
Record added: Oct 05, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 77691395
Added: Jun. 24, 2012